By Tim Kalinowski on October 1, 2021.
City council candidate Jerry Firth wants to help build more positive relationships within the community after a divisive four years on city council and within city politics in general.
Firth, who is the former Indigenous Recovery Coach Program manager with ARCHES and is currently the manager at Alpha House in Lethbridge, says his background as a social worker, and his inclination as a person, is to encourage constructive dialogue around finding common solutions to pressing social problems.
“Our city is facing a lot of difficult issues, and I am not very happy with how people have approached it,” he says. “I have a certain opinion, and value base, and perspective myself. But something I know from my work as a social worker and a community (builder) is you have to put yourself aside to be able to open your ears to what other people are saying, and figure out what’s this conversation? And how do we move forward from this? That’s not an easy thing to do all the time, but I don’t think we have been doing it right.”
Firth says by having difficult conversations without yelling at each other or calling each other names we as a community can drill down into the root causes of our social ills and reveal solutions not considered before. Firth says he favours, for example, a stronger municipal investment in housing.
“I do feel the City of Lethbridge does have to find ways to invest in those essential services; housing especially,” he says. “It’s important if we have those investments in place, we have got to get our hands dirty. We can’t be afraid to make a little bit of waves to get these services in place. But, as long as we are having the conversations ahead of time. We need to do the community engagement piece, but you are not going to have everyone agree on everything. So if it is the path that has proven to be successful, and there are models across the globe, let alone our country and province, where we know what works and what doesn’t work– then we need to act on it. We need to have that courageous leadership to move forward.”
Firth says if these types of investments are not undertaken then the city’s current problems will only grow worse.
“You can’t arrest your way out of these sorts of problems, and that is something police units have been saying themselves over the last few years,” he says. “You can’t address social issues from a policing component. They play an important role, but they are not the only part of the solution.”
In terms of capital investment in the community outside of these social needs, Firth is also in favour of restoring and enhancing parks funding to create great multi-use gathering spaces the entire community can get behind. Firth, who in his personal life is also a founder of Uplands Neighbourhood Association, a former member of the Reconciliation Lethbridge Advisory Committee, and a partner in Pogo Brothers Inc, which hosts the yearly Oktoberfest YQL, says he hopes to encourage more civic engagement to both create a sense of unity and togetherness in Lethbridge, and to encourage collective efforts in tackling the City’s greatest challenges.
Firth is hoping others in the community might be willing to join him in working to create a better city together through these collective efforts.
“I am a community builder,” Firth summarizes. ‘That is where my passion is. For me, those community spaces and gathering places; that’s what’s important to me.
“That’s the biggest reason I want to run,” he adds. “I want to be able to have the opportunity to continue to figure out new ways or other ways I can continue to grow our community, and have that development, from a place of the grassroots– that common voice that is maybe not always heard.”
Follow @TimKalHerald on Twitter